File Copyright Online - File mutual Divorce in Delhi - Online Legal Advice - Lawyers in India

Access to Justice vis-a-vis Legal Aid And Services System in India: A Critical Analysis

The concept of justice encompasses fairness, the rule of law, the principle of equality and fundamental human rights that could only be effective when all the ways to access them were available to an individual. As in our country, lakhs of cases go unreported due to poverty or a lack of awareness about the justice delivery system.

The main hurdle in ensuring equal access to justice for all includes legal, economic, social, and political inequalities. The introduction of a free legal aid and services system in India by adopting it in the Constitution of India and other statutes like the Legal Services Authority Act, etc. are phenomenal steps in reducing unreported cases, as poor people could even get access to justice.

Other effective steps by the legislature, executive, and judiciary includes the introduction of public interest litigation, organising Lok Adalats, and running several schemes for legal awareness to strengthen the concept of justice and also paved the way for easy access to justice. This article critically analyses present legislations, government policies and schemes and the role of the judiciary with regards to legal aid and services along with reflecting on certain suggestions for getting easy access to justice.

Legal aid, as His Lordship Justice P.N. Bhagwati so eloquently put it, is the provision of a social system that puts the instruments of justice administration within easy reach of people who need them to enforce their legal rights. Legal services in India consist of providing free legal aid, creating legal awareness, and organising Lok Adalat to reduce the number of overburdened cases through amicable settlement of disputes. They are governed by several provisions of the Constitution of India and other statutes.

The main ideology behind legal services in India is to address the problem of poverty, due to which people are unable to register or fight their cases in court. Thus, free legal aid is available to poor people or weaker sections of society who generally fall within the ambit of Section 12 of the Legal Services Authority Act, 1987 , like those who are women or children; members of Scheduled Castes or Scheduled Tribes; victims of human trafficking or beggars; people with disabilities; industrial workers, etc are eligible under this section.

Free legal services are essential in helping the impoverished and underprivileged get access to justice. It covers the costs of court fees, process fees, and other charges related to any legal proceedings; it provides legal representation; it obtains and supplies certified copies of orders and other court documents; it prepares appeals; it prints court books and translations of court documents in both civil and criminal matters of any court, tribunal, or authority.

Present Legislations
Legal aid is a fundamental entitlement of citizens and a precondition of the state. In India, there are several legislations that adopt the concept of legal aid in their provisions, which are discussed below :-

The Constitution of India:

  1. The Constitution's Articles 14 and 22(1) further require the state to provide equality before the law and a legal system that upholds justice by giving everyone equal opportunities.
  2. Article 21 : No individual will be denied his or her life or individual freedom besides, as per the system laid out by regulation. Hence, providing legal aid to everyone is necessary for ensuring substantive equality.
  3. Moreover, Article 39-A requires the state to guarantee that the administration of the legal system advances justice based on equal opportunities. In particular, the state is required to provide free legal aid through appropriate laws, programmes, or other means in order to guarantee that no citizen's ability to obtain justice is restricted because of their financial situation or other disabilities.

Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987:

This act led to another milestone regarding legal aid in India. In the year 1987, the Legal Services Authorities Act was passed by the Parliament of India, which came into effect on November 9, 1995, with the objective of setting up a universal system throughout the country for giving free and competent legal services to the more fragile segments of society and giving them equal opportunity. The National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) has been comprised under this act, which mainly focuses on framing policies and standards for ensuring legal services available under this act. It is the apex body that sets down strategies, standards, rules, and approaches compelling and efficient plans for the state legal services authorities to implement the legal services programmes throughout the country. In each state, a state legal services authority and, in each high court, a high court legal services committee have been constituted, while district legal services authorities and taluk legal services committees have been constituted in the districts and most of the taluks to give effect to the policies and directions of the NALSA, offer free legitimate types of assistance to individuals, and also organise lok adalat in the state. Primarily, the State Legal Services Authorities, District Legal Services Authorities, Taluk Legal Services Committees, etc. have been asked to discharge the following main functions on a regular basis:
  1. To provide free and competent legal services to eligible persons;
  2. To organise Lok Adalats for amicable settlement of disputes; and
  3. to organise legal awareness camps in rural areas.

Rule 9A of the Civil Procedure Code, 1908:

This rule of Order XXXIII of the CPC states that the court has the power to assign a pleader to a poor individual and excludes such an individual from paying the court expenses too.

Section 304 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973:

This section states that when in a trial before the Court of Session, the accused is not able to engage a pleader or advocate to defend, and if the Court feels that the accused is not in a condition to engage a pleader, then it is the duty of the Court to assign an advocate or a pleader for the defence of the accused, and the expenses will be borne out by the State.

Government Schemes And Policies
The Government of India empowers indigent people with different policies that grant them equal access to justice and free legal aid for their upliftment. Various government schemes and policies have also been framed to provide legal knowledge about their basic rights to the weaker sections of society, which would help them fight their cases in a court. Such government schemes and policies are discussed below:
  1. Legal Literacy Camps:
    It is always necessary that every individual have basic legal knowledge about their existing legal rights, like free legal aid, which will provide them easy access to justice. Thus, for this purpose, the government and other NGO's organise different camps in villages, legal aid programmes in schools and clinics in law colleges and universities, lectures regarding constitutional fundamental rights, and also about new laws in schools. The main objective of such awareness campaigns is that justice should be reached out to every person, whether rich or poor.

    The Indian government established a number of significant initiatives, including legal aid boards, societies, law commissions, and law departments. In 1980, the Committee for Implementing Legal Aid Schemes (CILAS) was established, with Honourable Justice P.N. Bhagwati serving as its chairman, to oversee legal aid initiatives across the nation.

    NALSA conducts legal literacy training through the State Legal Services Authorities as part of preventive and strategic legal aid. Apart from the rural legal literacy camps, several states also regularly hold legal literacy programmes for women's empowerment in schools and universities
  2. Designing Innovative Solutions for Holistic Access to Justice (DISHA):
    Furthermore, the Department of Justice launched a programme called Designing Innovative Solutions for Holistic Access to Justice (DISHA) in order to facilitate the simple, inexpensive, and convenient provision of legal services.
  3. Tele-Law services:
    The term "tele-law" refers to the practice of providing legal information and advice via communications and information technology which aims to link the beneficiary and the lawyer through teleconferencing and other facilities offered at common service centres as well as the Tele-Law Citizens Mobile Application. The primary goal of the Government of India's telelaw services, is to improve pre-litigation advice and consultation for all citizens at the Gram Panchayat level.
  4. Nyaya Bandhu (Pro Bono Legal Services):
    The effort of the Indian government to create a system for providing pro bono legal services all over the nation is called Nyaya Bandhu (Pro Bono Legal Services). In order to provide pro bono (free of charge) legal services, the programme connects practicing advocates who are interested in taking on pro bono legal work with qualifying marginalised beneficiaries via mobile technology.
  5. Lok Adalats:
    Another milestone in this field was the creation of Lok Adalats, which serve as an additional forum for needy people for alternative conflict resolution mechanisms that allow for the amicable settlement or compromise of matters that are either pending in court or at the pre-litigation stage in India's legal system.
Thus, the above-mentioned multitudinous schemes are working, and their execution is being monitored by the government. The overall upliftment of the poor section of society and bringing them to the front from behind closed doors can only be achieved if various legislative provisions and schemes are properly implemented in a just and fair way.

Role Of Judiciary
In the modern period, the court plays a remarkable role and has broad authority to interpret statutes and apply judicial precedent. It is essential to the defence of citizens' fundamental and basic human rights and offers a glimmer of hope when such rights are abused. In India, the issue of legal assistance for the impoverished has been raised through a number of significant rulings and such rulings have also promptly and amicably provided answers to the expressed concerns.

Some of which are covered here:
  • Hussainara Khatoon v. State of Bihar:
    The court noted the significance of Article 39A, which emphasises that the right to free legal services is implicitly guaranteed by Article 21 of the Indian Constitution and that it is an inherent component of reasonable, fair, and just procedure.
  • Khatri v. State of Bihar:
    The Supreme Court ruled that the state cannot be constitutionally required to deny an accused person legal representation because of a lack of funds, administrative capacity, or a lack of request on the part of the accused. Rather, the state must provide legal representation to accused persons not only during the trial phase but also when they are initially brought before the magistrate or repeatedly remanded. It is the duty of magistrates and session judges to inform the accused of his rights.
  • Suk Das v. Union Territory of Arunachal Pradesh:
    Justice P.N. Bhagwati emphasised the need to raise legal awareness among the impoverished because they are ignorant of their rights, particularly the right to free legal assistance. He also noted that people living in rural areas of India lack literacy and are unaware of their inalienable legal rights that have been bestowed upon them by the government. People who are literate do not always know what their rights are.
  • M.H. Hoskot v. State of Maharashtra:
    It was held that a person who is eligible to file an appeal of their sentence is entitled to legal representation for the preparation and argument of the appeal.
  • Sheela Barse v. State of Maharashtra:
    The court ruled that police have to notify the closest Legal Aid Committee of an arrest as soon as possible.
  • Air India Statutory Corporation v. United Labour Union & Ors.:
    The Supreme Court noted that Article 39A provides a beacon of hope that justice is administered based on equal opportunity and that no one is denied justice because of their financial situation or any other disability. This observation has been used extensively to illustrate the scope of Article 39A.
  • State of Haryana v. Darshana Devi:
    In this case, the Supreme Court made the observation that the impoverished cannot be excluded from the legal system on the grounds of not being able to pay a court fee or not being able to use Order XXXIII, Civil Procedure Code, exempted provisions.
  • Sheela Barse v. Union of India:
    The Hon'ble Court concluded in this particular case that Article 21 of the Indian Constitution implicitly guarantees everyone the fundamental right to a speedy trial.
  • Mumbai Kamgar Sabha v. Abdulbhai Faizullabhai and others:
    The first public interest litigation (PIL) was filed in India in 1976. Justice Krishna Iyer planted the seeds of PILs with this seminal ruling, which assisted courts in lowering the number of cases from different parties on the same issue that were previously causing delays in the administration of justice.

No one can be punished without being heard, which is the most significant natural justice canon upon which our judicial system is based. This essential component of natural justice can never be met unless the party requesting justice has provided adequate representation. Our criminal jurisprudence in this regard is based on an intriguing anecdote: it is better to let ten guilty people go free than to convict one innocent person. It is necessary to make the legalese comprehensible to the general public. Above all, public-spirited lawyers are desperately needed to continue the extremely noble task of granting justice to individuals from all walks of life.

There is still a gap that needs to be filled even after numerous law provisions, committees, and authorities have been established. Many people still accept injustice today because they cannot afford to have a lawyer defend them. There are numerous reasons why there are so many unresolved cases in court; many of these cases involve innocent persons who were wrongfully convicted and lack the means to defend themselves. The execution of legal aid services is hampered by a number of problems and obstacles.
  1. Lack of legal awareness among the public:
    The primary problem with the impoverished and illiterate individuals receiving these legal aid services is that they lack education. They lack legal education, so they are ignorant of both their fundamental and legal rights.
  2. Lack of support by the advocates, lawyers, etc:
    These days, the majority of lawyers and advocates do not want to participate in these social activities, and they all seek the right price for their services. Although very few lawyers provide these services, the administration of justice is hampered by the dearth of excellent advocates.
  3. Limited powers of Lok Adalats:
    Comparing Lok Adalats to civil courts, they have less authority. To begin with, improper protocols They are therefore unable to force the parties to attend the hearings. There is sometimes a delay in the disposal of this case when one of the parties fails to show up for the hearing.
  4. Underutilization of paralegal volunteers:
    These paralegal volunteers' primary responsibilities include reaching out to the underprivileged and weaker segments of society and promoting legal assistance programmes and camps. But these paralegal volunteers are not properly trained or supervised. In addition, there are comparatively few of these volunteers in relation to the whole population.

To tackle the emerging challenges to legal services in India, the following suggestions are discussed below:
  • Legal literacy campaigns:
    It is essential to teach the uneducated and underprivileged populace about their fundamental rights and legal knowledge. Programmes for community-based legal education that offer thorough and easily understandable instruction on fundamental legal principles, processes, and rights can help to achieve this. India may potentially implement a five-year strategy to teach citizens about the laws and their rights.
  • Better remuneration to the Legal Services Authority:
    The state must give the Free Legal Services Authorities a sizable amount of money in order to ensure that people do not forgo expert counsel and assistance due to a lack of resources. Ensuring equitable access to legal aid and maintaining the values of justice depend heavily on having adequate financial resources. Therefore, the government or courts ought to pay attorneys more money in order to compensate them for representing or appearing on behalf of the accused at no cost to them.
  • Feedback approach:
    The feedback strategy, which involves asking people for their opinions on the counsel's work, should be used to evaluate the monitoring of the advocates' work. Following this, each advocate should have a proper progress report. All of this might be accomplished by forming an appropriate oversight committee.
  • Role of NGOs:
    Involving and expanding the role of non-governmental organisations to educate the public about their rights and efficient administration of justice is necessary step in this regard.
  • Free Legal Aid:
    The elimination of social and structural discrimination against the less fortunate can be greatly aided by the critical tool of free legal aid.
  • ADR mechanism:
    All levels of legal aid organisations should employ appropriate alternative dispute resolution (ADR) techniques in order to expedite the process of reaching a settlement between the parties involved and ensure that the issue is resolved out of court.

The prime duty of the state is to provide legal aid to the needy and ensure equal justice for all, which won't be possible without safeguarding the rights of the weaker sections of society. Although several legal awareness campaigns and movements have been organised, unfortunately, they haven't achieved the desired goal as a major section of society still lacks legal awareness. One of the main reasons the legal aid movement has not yet succeeded in reaching its goals is because people are still unaware of their basic rights.

The rights and privileges of the underprivileged are exploited and denied when there is a lack of legal awareness. Even though they are aware of their rights, due to a lack of resources, they are unable to access it. Thus, the major focus of the concerned authorities must be on making access to justice easier for each and every individual of the country regardless of their economic status.

Award Winning Article Is Written By: Mr.Amrit Raj Dubey
Awarded certificate of Excellence
Authentication No: FB405942724033-28-0224

Law Article in India

Ask A Lawyers

You May Like

Legal Question & Answers

Lawyers in India - Search By City

Copyright Filing
Online Copyright Registration


How To File For Mutual Divorce In Delhi


How To File For Mutual Divorce In Delhi Mutual Consent Divorce is the Simplest Way to Obtain a D...

Increased Age For Girls Marriage


It is hoped that the Prohibition of Child Marriage (Amendment) Bill, 2021, which intends to inc...

Facade of Social Media


One may very easily get absorbed in the lives of others as one scrolls through a Facebook news ...

Section 482 CrPc - Quashing Of FIR: Guid...


The Inherent power under Section 482 in The Code Of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (37th Chapter of t...

The Uniform Civil Code (UCC) in India: A...


The Uniform Civil Code (UCC) is a concept that proposes the unification of personal laws across...

Role Of Artificial Intelligence In Legal...


Artificial intelligence (AI) is revolutionizing various sectors of the economy, and the legal i...

Lawyers Registration
Lawyers Membership - Get Clients Online

File caveat In Supreme Court Instantly